Maybe you’re antsy for the next installation of the terrible Maze Runner series. Or maybe you were into spec fic before spec fic was Hunger Games cool. Maybe you read Heinlein before 20/20 cultural hindsight made you realize how aneurism-inducingly sexist he (and well, you know the whole 50s/60s sci fi scene) was.1
Whether your speculative fiction leanings are mere dabblings or headlong plunges, the University of Iowa Libraries,2 which has already been amassing a not insubstantial speculative fiction collection out there in the cornfields, has extended their collection proclivities to include the digitizing of spec fic fan fiction. And no, we’re not talking the Clarice/Scully slash fic you used to read on that one Angelfire site that’s already been digitally preserved thanks to the WayBack Machine.
We’re talking good ol’ paper-based spec fic fanzines – which apparently go back to well, WELL before the internet killed paper-based communication as well know it. Digital Project Librarian Laura Hampton, heading up UI’s digitization of donated and collected paper-based speculative fiction collections, notes that written spec fic fan communications go back “as far as the 1930s, predating heated debates over Kirk vs Picard by decades.”
It’s a comfort to know somehow that spec fic fans have been fightsies and haggling over utterly imaginary worlds and alien beings since the pre-WWII days. So other than providing an amusing historical lens into the fan-lives of our nerd foremothers and forefathers, why does the digitization of print-based speculative fiction fandom matter? Peter Balersteri, UI Libraries’ Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections, sees it as a way of providing tangible content for the increasing interest in scholarly study of actual factual fandom:
“These fandoms are increasingly impossible to ignore,” said Balestrieri “And the move to study them seriously grows with every PhD candidate that gains permission to write her dissertation on zombies.”
How very meta.
Speaking of slash fic, not mentioned is whether the UI’s massive digitizing of spec fic fandom project includes slash fic, but given that the Naked Times (Kirk/Spock!) is a paper-based zine that ran from 1978-1994, we certainly hope so!